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Our cashless society is affecting the homeless

The number of rough sleepers in the UK is on the rise. The most obvious of places to see this growing problem is in our own capital, which accounts for almost a quarter (23%) of the total number of rough sleepers in the UK (2,659 according to Crisis!)

In London, regardless of whether you’re north, south, east or west of the city, you can see evidence of this homelessness epidemic on every street corner. And it’s only getting worse.

At the same time, the rest of the city is being engulfed in the realms of technological innovation. For most of us, technology has improved our lives, offering more convenience and instant gratification. Take contactless payments as an example. Many will remember the days of queuing at the station on a Monday morning to buy their travelcard for the week, but then came the Oyster card which could be topped up online from the comfort of your own home.

Today, Londoners don’t even have to worry about that. They can simply tap their payment device (be it a phone, watch or plastic card) onto the card reader and skip merrily(ish) on their way to work.

Contactless payments have offered us all a more convenient way of paying and travelling through our day to day lives, but it’s also left many of us short of change. Change which would have once been used to offer warmth on a cold day, but now sits virtually on a plastic bank card, waiting for the next purchase of an extortionately priced chocolate on the way home, or a skinny-soya-mocha-vanilla-latte on your morning break.

Consider this: as you pass the Big Issue man with his lovely big golden retriever on your way into work in the morning, how often do you begin to reach for your purse, only to realise you spent the last of your change a couple of weekends ago? Or, how often do you now honestly (though apologetically) say to a charity collector, “I’ve got no change”, as they shake a bucket under your nose for Comic Relief?

At a guess? More often than not.

Whether we like it or not, contactless payments have completely transformed the way we pay for things. And businesses of all shapes and sizes have had to change and adapt to meet the consumer demand to pay instantly and electronically.

In our cashless society, even the charities have had to adapt to this new consumer habit. Just the other day I noticed my local Cancer Research shop had set up a ‘tap to donate’ in their shop window. With this option, consumers don’t even have to step into the shop to donate. Similarly, volunteers for the Royal British Legion were equipped with contactless readers for poppy donations this autumn.

Such luxuries don’t exist for rough sleepers.

With the nights getting colder, they need all the help they can get to keep warm. So if (like me), you’re one of those Londoners who is constantly without change, perhaps think again when you next pass a cash point. Or, why not volunteer or donate through one of the many charities supporting homeless people? To name a few:

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